Established in 1880s, SEIKO is one of the largest watch manufactures in the world . Throughout its 127 years of history, the company has sought to meet challenges and realize dreams, technical, commercial and environmental, that at one time have seemed beyond reach. Examples of such challenges abound: To build Japan’s first watch in 1913, using components, including the balance wheel, that were built entirely in-house. To restart production less than one year after the Tokyo earthquake of 1923 had entirely destroyed both the headquarters and the factory. To be the first watch company in the world to eliminate CFC’s in its entire watch production in 1992. The list of challenges met is long.
But it is in the area of timekeeping technology that the company’s determination to realize dreams is most evident. In particular, SEIKO has always striven to be at the leading edge of the technologies of watch making, and to expand the boundaries of the possible. This relentless pursuit of new goals has led to SEIKO’s mastery of no less than four timekeeping technologies, two of which are unique to SEIKO.
Mastery of these four timekeeping technologies, Spring Drive, Mechanical, Kinetic, and quartz has been made possible by SEIKO’s unique ability to develop all its technologies in-house. Because SEIKO has skills in all areas of the watchmaker’s art, each new development in one area opens up new possibilities in other areas. Thus, Kinetic could not have been developed without the existence within SEIKO of high level skill in both mechanical and quartz watchmaking, and Spring Drive would not be possible without the creation of both a new type of IC and a new type of mainspring. Similarly, a ‘magic lever’ was invented in 1959 for SEIKO’s automatic watch and, almost half a century later, it played an important role in making the dream of Spring Drive a reality. In these and many other ways, it has been the interaction of these skills that has driven forward the SEIKO dream of realizing the impossible.
Fusing precision and craftsmanship into mechanical watchmaking SEIKO first produced mechanical watches in 1913, and therefore has almost a century of uninterrupted expertise in the creation of traditional timepieces. But it was in the 1960’s that the most rapid and important developments took place, as Seiko sought to make its mechanical watches the best in the world. Throughout the early 60’s, Seiko watches won all the top places in Japan’s accuracy competitions and new challenges were sought to stimulate further improvements.
As SEIKO looked further afield for new competition, the Neuchatel Observatory competitions in Switzerland graciously welcomed SEIKO’s participation in 1963. For four years, SEIKO strove to make movements that could compete and, in 1967, two SEIKO timepieces were awarded the second and third places. As the Neuchatel competition was then closed, SEIKO sought to compete in Geneva and, in 1968, with 7 pieces in the top 10, won first place overall. From that moment on, with collections like Grand Seiko, and movements like the automatic mechanical chronograph caliber 6139, which was installed with a column wheel and vertical clutch, SEIKO has been at the leading edge of mechanical watch technology.
SEIKO Quartz : Inventors and innovators in quartz since 1969
SEIKO launched the world’s first quartz watch, the SEIKO Astron in 1969. It was offered in a limited edition of just 100 pieces at the price of 450,000 Yen, a then enormous price for a watch, roughly equivalent to the price of a normal sized car.
The race to quartz had started many years earlier when, in the 1930’s, quartz clocks were developed by a Canadian telecommunications expert at the Bell Telephone Laboratories, but the dream remained elusive because of the many problems of miniaturisation. Like many other companies, SEIKO was working steadily on these problems, but in 1968, the management became exasperated with the slow progress and issued a challenge to the team. The management told them they had just one year to bring quartz to market. A new dedicated team at SEIKO’s facility set to work. They created, in-house and from scratch, the three key elements needed to realize the quartz dream: a new crystal oscillator, a new type of ‘open’ stepping motor and a new C-MOS IC – all within a year. The quartz challenge was met, with just one week to spare, on December 25, 1969.
In 2004, SEIKO received the IEEE Milestone Award in recognition of this world’s first achievement. Since that momentous day, SEIKO has had unrivalled mastery of quartz technology and the design of the quartz oscillator developed by SEIKO is now the standard for the industry. Furthermore, SEIKO’s design is used far beyond the field of watches; it is used in mobile phones, computers, automobile clocks and in many other everyday applications, and the C-MOS IC technology that SEIKO developed has even found applications in the world’s most advanced image-capture systems.Today, the list of SEIKO’s world’s first quartz movements continues to grow.
SEIKO Kinetic: Powered by the movement of your body
By the early 1970’s, SEIKO skills in electronic and mechanical timekeeping were well established and had set in motion a growth trend for the company that continues today. However, SEIKO’s designers and movement engineers are forever restless and they sought new challenges. One dream in particular pre-occupied the SEIKO teams. Was it possible to harness the perpetual energy of a mechanical movement to the precision of an electronic watch and thus combine the best of both timekeeping worlds?
SEIKO Kinetic fulfilled the dream. By converting motion into electricity, SEIKO Kinetic provides a platform which, today, delivers quartz accuracy with lower than ever service requirements, less environmental impact and the potential for unlimited multi-functionality. Serious work on the project started in 1983 and a team in SEIKO’s facility was given free rein to develop whatever new technologies might be needed. The key issue was immediately apparent – the power requirement was too great for a conventional quartz watch, and to solve it required a new IC, a new voltage multiplier and a new rotor using magnetic levitation.
By 1988, all three technologies had been invented and SEIKO Kinetic was born, and over the years no less than 23 Kinetic calibers have been in production, including two remarkable chronographs.
SEIKO Spring Drive: A quiet revolution in luxury watchmaking
SEIKO Spring Drive is the only watch to reflect the true nature of time. Its unique glide motion reflects the true, continuous and natural flow of time.
As early as 1973, a young engineer in SEIKO Epson, Yoshikazu Akahane, was already working on a new dream, which he called the ‘the eternal watch’, a watch that used a mainspring but which would not have the reliability and durability problems inherent in a traditional timepiece. Mr Akahane wondered whether an electromagnetic brake could be used as a regulator. Again, the dream hinged on the ability to fuse the traditional and the modern watchmaking skills of SEIKO. The problems seemed insurmountable because of the impossibility of reconciling the high energy requirement of the IC with the low power output of a motion-based caliber.
It took 28 years for the dream to be realised as new technologies were again required in every area of watchmaking, but in the end, it proved possible, mainly because SEIKO created a new IC that reduced energy consumption to 25 nano watts, which is only 1/1000th of the power requirement of the first quartz watch, and, in 1999, Spring Drive was bom. Spring Drive is a luxury mechanical watch in which the escapement is replaced by an entirely new regulator that uses and generates mechanical, electrical and electromagnetic power. There are again the synergies. The magic lever, which was created for SEIKO mechanical watch, was used in Spring Drive automatic models to improve the winding efficiency. Another example is the special alloy Spron 510. The Spron 510 was created in 1997 and was with its exceptional flexibility and durability used for the main spring, making possible the longer power in Spring Drive.
SEIKO Watches Time line
1881: K.Hattori,the predecessor of today’s Seiko Holding Corporation, established.
1892: Seikosha Clock supply factory established;production of wall clocks begins.
1895: Seikosha creates first pocket watch.
1913: Production of Laurel,the first wrist watch made in Japan Begins.
1929: Seiko pocket watch is appointed as Japan National Railway’s official Railway watch.
1941: Introduction of Chronograph Pocket watch
1953: Seiko produces Japan’s first TV Commercial
1959: Seiko commercializes Quartz clocks for broadcasting use.
1960: Seiko’s Signature piece,the Grand Seiko introduces.
1964: Introduction of world’s first portable Quartz Chronometer QC 951.Seiko serves as the official timer of 18th Tokyo Olympics.
1969: Introduction of Calibre 6139,world’s first automatic chronograph watch equipped with both vertical clutch and column wheel.Introduction of world’s first Quartz watch SEIKO Quartz Astron Cal.3500.
1973: Introduction of world’s first six digit LCD Quartz Watch.
1975: Introduction of world’s first multifunction Digital watch.Introduction of world’s first Titanium diver’s watch with a water resistance up to 600M.
1983: Introduction of world’s first TV Watch.Introduction of the world’s first watch with sound recorder.
1984: Introduction of world’s first watch with computer functions UC 2000.
1988: Introduction of world’s first A G S Watch Calibre 7M 42
1990: Introduction of world’s first computerized diver’s watch Scubamaster.
1992: Seiko serves as the official timer of 25th Olympics held in Barcelona.Introduction of 1/100 th analog quartz chronograph watch cal.7T59.
1994: Introduction of world’s first watch with LumiBrite , a non radio-active luminous material.
1998: Introduction of the perpetual calendar watch driven by the world’s smallest ultra sonic micro motor cal 8F32.Introduction of world’s first Thermo-electric Watch,Seiko Theramic.
1999: Introduction of world’s first Spring Drive cal 7R68.Introduction of Ultimate Kinetic Chronograph cal.9T78.Introduction of Kinetic Auto Relay cal.5J22.
2004: Seiko was honoured with the IEEE Milestone Award for the development of SEIKO Quartz Astron.
2005: Introduction of the Kinetic Perpetual cal.7D48.Introduction of Spring Drive cal.5R65 and 5R64.Introduction of world’s first three hand radio wave controlled watch cal.7B26.
2006: Introduction of world’s first watch with electrophoresis display module cal.G510.Introduction of the Credor Spring Drive Sonnerie cal.7R06.Introduction of Spring Drive Moon Phase cal.5R67.
2007: Introduction of the Kinetic Direct Drive cal.5D44,5D22.Introduction of Spring Drive chronograph cal 5R86 equipped with both vertical clutch and column wheel.SEIKO watches started to install mercury-free batteries from April, 2007 and all SEIKO watches will have mercury-free batteries by June 2008 on production basis.
2008: Announcement of Spring Drive Spacewalk at Basel world 2008.
2012: Seiko released the Seiko Astron GPS solar, the world’s first watch to receive and use positioning data from GPS satellites to display the exact local time anywhere in the world with only one touch of a button, using just the power of light.
2013: Marks the 100th anniversary of Seiko watchmaking (1913-2013). While the Seiko company was founded in 1881, it was in 1913 that Kintaro Hattori’s company produced Japan’s very first wristwatch, the Laurel.
SEIKO Watch Making Studios
The precious responsibility of crafting SEIKO’s very finest timepieces is shared between two remarkable studios, one in the woods of northern Japan near Morioka and the other high in the mountains of central Japan. In recent years, these studios have created some remarkable timepieces whose technology, artistry and quality craftsmanship have generated great interest among watch enthusiasts worldwide, including the Grand Seiko 9S caliber, the Spring Drive Sonnerie and the Spacewalk chronograph.
The Shizukuishi Watch Studio. Home of mechanical watch excellence
For over 70 years, SEIKO’s Morioka facility has consistently and continuously developed its watchmaking skills in every area of the art, and today is one of the very few watchmaking houses to build every single component of its mechanical watches, including the balance springs and mainsprings. In 2004, the Shizukuishi Watch Studio was added to the Morioka facilities and given the responsibility to further develop its high grade mechanical watchmaking as demand from collectors and mechanical watch enthusiasts grew. Today, the Studio, which takes its name from the village of Shizukuishi, has over 60 members, 19 of whom are Master Craftsmen, and there are currently over 20 different mechanical calibers in production at the Studio.
The uniqueness of the Shizukuishi Studio is that it combines the very highest technology with hand craftsmanship of extraordinary quality. Thus, the most advanced miniaturization technology allows balance springs of 0.03mm to be made here while in the same facility, master engravers are at work, creating patterns on the movement bridges to a depth of just 0.15mm and modifying curves to within a tolerance of 0.01mm, by hand and eye alone. The Shizukuishi Watch Studio is a true ‘manufacture’ in every sense.
This fusion of high technology and hand craftsmanship is more than a matter of professional pride in Shizukuishi. It brings real benefits to owners of Studio’s creations. In 1998 when the celebrated 9S movement was born, its extended power reserve (50 hours) and proven high accuracy (+5 to -3 seconds a day) were achieved though the combination of cutting edge CAE / CAD / CAM and the adjustment skills of craftsmen recognised as among the very best in the world, including Mr. Sakurada and Mr. Terui, both of whom have been awarded craftsmanship awards by the Emperor of Japan. The respect for tradition and quality extends to even the furniture. Every desk is customized for its user and is made from a traditional Japanese wood, ‘Iwayadou Tansu’, coated in a locally made lacquer to give each desk a luxurious and calm atmosphere.The Studio and the whole Morioka facility is fully engaged in environmental protection. It achieved ISO 14001 accreditation in 1997 and ‘zero emissions’ in 2004.
The Shinshu Watch Studio
The visitor to the Studio is first impressed by its location. The small town of Shiojiri is high in the mountains of Nagano Prefecture in central Japan, and through every window, the Hida, Kiso and Yatsugatake mountains look down on the Studio, their height seemingly increased and their distance foreshortened by the cleanliness of the mountain air. The Studio takes its name, Shinshu, from the former name for Nagano.
Once inside, the eye is drawn to the many landmark timepieces that the Studio has created since its inception in the late 1990’s. The Credor Spring Drive Sonnerie and the Spring Drive Spacewalk are proudly displayed around the extensive premises, in addition to many important pieces from SEIKO’s historical collection. The Shinshu facility houses three separate studios that, together, contain every aspect of the watchmaker’s art.
The main studio (called ‘Takumi’, or Mastery) assembles and adjusts all the Spring Drive and other high-grade movements made by this Shiojiri facility. The jewelry studio works the precious metals and stones used in many SEIKO and Credor jewelry watches and effects the diamond cutting of the hands and indexes as well as the ‘blade’ polishing of watches like the new Ananta.
Lastly, the Micro Artist Studio is home to an elite group of just 10 master craftsmen who make individual timepieces, including the Spring Drive Sonnerie, whose 5-per-year production is already reserved by customers for the next two years. It also made the Credor Spring Drive “Eichi” whose ‘Torque Return’ system was a highlight of Baselworld 2008. This studio is a small but complete ‘manufacture’. The Micro Artists plan, design, manufacture, assemble and regulate all their watches themselves.
The Shinshu Studio has a very clear vision of its purpose. All 180 qualified technicians share the dream of making watches whose beauty and practicality are the most durable and long-lasting in the world. Their goal is to make watches whose design is impressive at first sight, but which are so well made, practical and durable that their appeal grows with the years.
A sign hangs nonchalantly outside the door to the Micro Artist Studio. It describes, in both Japanese and English, the philosophy and mission of the whole Shinshu Studio, including the words “Our watches bring long-term satisfaction, the feeling of Japanese and are reliable to wear until grandchildren.” Having seen the range of skills, the depth of dedication of the craftsmen and the high technology movement design that supports their work, every visitor to Shinshu will most definitely agree.
Seiko – Current watch collections
1. Grand Seiko
The first ever Grand Seiko was born in 1960. For 50 years, the idea behind Grand Seiko has remained the same. It is a deceptively simple idea; each Grand Seiko watch should be as accurate, legible, durable and easy to wear as possible. In pursuit of this ideal, the Grand Seiko watchmakers utilize the very best movements, materials and craftsmanship to create, by hand, watches that are in their simple sophistication, perfect expressions of all that is essential in a wrist watch. Until 2010, Grand Seiko was available only in Japan and a very limited number of retail locations elsewhere, but now watch connoisseurs in over 20 major countries are discovering the functional beauty and the design purity of Grand Seiko.
In 2011, SEIKO introduced three limited edition Grand Seiko timepieces as a part of the SEIKO 130th Anniversary Commemorative Collection. All three models house a newly developed mechanical hand-winding movement, Caliber 9S64, which boasts a 3-day power reserve and is used exclusively for Grand Seiko. The design pays faithful homage to the much coveted original Grand Seiko model from 1960.
The Seiko Astron is the world’s first GPS solar watch. It requires no external power source and is entirely self-sustaining. Using just the power of light, it connects to the GPS network, and tells time with atomic clock precision, adjusting at the touch of a button to all 39 time zones on earth. It took almost 10 years to create the new Seiko Astron and to package its advanced functionality in a watch that is beautiful to look at and comfortable to wear. Like its illustrious predecessor, the 1969 first quartz watch, the new Astron GPS Solar will change the way that the world tells time. To develop Astron, Seiko developed several new technologies and over 100 patent applications have been filed. Only Seiko can deliver what the international traveler has long wanted, a watch that understands and adjusts to time zones.
Ananta is a relatively new collection, but its roots lie deep in the culture and history of Japan and of SEIKO. Ananta represents the dedication to perfection to which Japanese culture has always aspired and to which SEIKO has always been committed. The name Ananta expresses the essence of SEIKO’s continual dedication to go to, and beyond, the limits of the possible. Ananta is a Sanskrit word meaning “infinite”. Ananta is SEIKO’s word for dedication to perfection. The design of Ananta is inspired by Katana, the ancient Japanese art of sword making. The katana sword was first developed more than 800 years ago and symbolizes the high value that Japanese culture puts upon traditional skills and innovative manufacture, and is therefore the perfect inspiration for Ananta. In 2011, SEIKO introduced Ananta Automatic Chronograph Diver’s watch along with the SEIKO 130th Anniversary Commemorative Collection.
Premier is SEIKO’s leading dress watch collection and has been a consistent and significant success worldwide for many years, first in Europe but now all over the world. Its appeal lies in the synthesis of the modern with the classical. The exterior design is inspired by the architecture of classical times, but with the addition of touches from the world of modern buildings. Similarly, the duality of Premier is expressed in the movements within. The Premier range includes both traditional mechanical calibers and also the very latest Kinetic movements. In every sense, where classicism and modernity meet, there lies the essence of SEIKO Premier.
For over a decade, Sportura has been synonymous with success in sport. Today, the spirit of Sportura is expressed anew in a collection of sports watches that only SEIKO, with almost five decades of experience at the leading edge of sport and sports timing, could build.
Tokyo, 1964. The Olympic Games were about to open and SEIKO was about to face its sternest ever test. As the official timekeeper to the Games, SEIKO had to time thousands of athletes on the greatest stage of all. For three years, SEIKO’s engineers had been designing, building and testing the 1,278 timing devices that were needed to do the job. Just 15 days later, it was all over. The Games were completed and the timing had been flawless. SEIKO had proven itself at the highest level and had demonstrated to the world that the challenge of sport was the perfect inspiration for the creation of great timepieces. Since that auspicious start, SEIKO has been dedicated to the world of sport, timing hundreds of events and creating industry leading sports watches like the first titanium diving watch in 1975, the first analog quartz chronograph in 1983 and the first chronograph with glide motion hand in 2007.
Velatura is Seiko’s marine sports collection. First launched in 2007, it is now established as the watch of choice among many in the sailing community, including the leading athletes in the 49er Class, the Olympic class that first informed and inspired the creation of the collection.
Website : http://www.seikowatches.com